Bumper attendance numbers are expected by Paul Doswell as Hawks continue late season play-off charge at National League South title-hopefuls Maidstone United

Paul Doswell is anticipating a bumper crowd of around 3,000 to be in attendance when he takes his in-form Hawks to face National League South table-toppers Maidstone United on Saturday.

By Lewis Mason
Thursday, 31st March 2022, 6:55 pm
Hawks defender Josh Passley, right, has recovered from a chest infection and is in contention for a return at Maidstone United Picture: Dave Haines
Hawks defender Josh Passley, right, has recovered from a chest infection and is in contention for a return at Maidstone United Picture: Dave Haines

And the Hawks boss believes it's an occasion his side should relish rather than be daunted by as they aim to keep their growing play-off ambitions alive.

The Stones have the second highest home attendance average across the division this season at 2,174, which is only bettered by Dulwich Hamlet (2,648).

Maidstone's title charge has been built on a foundation of being a formidable force on their own patch this season and they have taken maximum points from their previous 11 NLS fixtures at the Gallagher Stadium.

But Doswell is remaining optimistic ahead of trip to Kent, with his troops unbeaten in seven matches and just a point off the play-offs in 10th having played a game fewer than seventh-placed Dulwich Hamlet.

Yet the Hawks boss acknowledged his players could have to contend with a crackling atmosphere at times at a Maidstone United side he has great respect for.

Doswell said: ‘I think we're really looking forward to it. If you're involved in football, these are the games you're desperate to be involved in.

‘It's one we're looking forward to, I think there will be close to 3,000 there, we're taking a few as well. It'll be close to 3,000.

‘They've won their past 11 home games as well, but we go there unbeaten in seven. We know on our day we can beat anyone at this level. We're certainly going there with a positive attitude but also respecting Maidstone.

‘I think they're a really good club, they're an old Football League club - I think people forget that - they've got that old-style fanbase. I think the supporters are brilliant for them, they're potentially a goal advantage at times, because when they're right behind them they're a really fantastic crowd.’

But whatever the result at title-chasers Maidstone United, Doswell does not believe it will be season-defining in the club's late play-off push.

And the Hawks boss is just relieved his men have put themselves in the picture for a top-seven finish having recorded just one win in 12 league games prior to their current seven-match unbeaten stretch.

Doswell added: ‘I felt we were always good enough (of getting play-offs) if we could get the players back. Unquestionably, having Stefan (Payne) and Manny (Duku) have made a big difference as well.

‘What we've done is given ourselves a great chance now. I don't think win, lose or draw Saturday will define (play-off finish). I think by the time you get to that Easter weekend when you're playing on the Friday and the Monday then you've got a good idea and a bit more confidence as to where you might end up.’

Striker Alex Wall is a doubt for the trip to Maidstone with a hamstring issue, as is Guy Hollis after reporting soreness this week on the ankle problem which had kept him sidelined for a few months.

But on a brighter note, both Oscar Gobern (broken toe) and Josh Passey (chest infection) have been back in training this week and are in contention for the tough test at the table-topping Stones.